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In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

This edition of the Seed Piece may be found in our Wood Prairie Seed Piece Archives.

 Almost Keeping Up.


Forest of Flowers.

     This year we had one road-facing out-of-the-way corner of a Potato field planted to Flowers in an effort to attract Beneficial Insects. That corner is in the above photo. This corner plot was part of our field-perimeter-planting of Beneficial Flowers. Since the corner was not in our way we left it alone and it thrived well into October when this shot was taken. Eventually heavy freezes brought about the plot’s demise. The thick forest of Flowers is predominantly beautiful Cosmos.

No one can remember as warm a Fall as Maine is having. It’s giving Aroostook farmers a good chance to catch up on Fall work. We hope wherever you are, your Fall is going great!

Stay safe and stay warm!

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Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine

 

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Maine Tales. Remembering Elden. Bridgewater, Maine Circa 1882.



Acadian Potato Farmer. Aroostook County, Maine. Circa 1940.  Another fine photo taken by Jack Delano, a professional photographer working for the Federal Farm Security Administration.

In this edition of the Wood Prairie Seed Piece we are re-posting, below, an article first written eleven years ago in October 2011. It commemorated the passing of Elden Bradbury, one the Potato farming elders in our little farming Town of Bridgewater (Pop. 532). The next Spring, March 2012, the article was included in the printed Bridgewater Annual Town Report, prior to Town Meeting, as a tribute to Elden and the potato farming Bradburys.


    We got done digging our crop late last week towards evening as a cold rain was beginning to fall. It wasn't long before Aroostook County got another couple inches of rain. It has been wet ground ever since and no one in northern Maine 'has spun a wheel,’ that is, worked the field, since then. By the sound of the wet forecast ahead it looks like the potatoes that were still in the ground last week will still be in the ground next week.


      While of course it is good that we are done, we can't help but fret about our neighbors who have potatoes left to dig. Potatoes are still the big deal in this little potato town. Other places, a sunny day in Fall is merely 'pleasant'. Here, a sunny day is recognized by everybody as 'a good day to dig'. The fortunes of our town still rest upon the success of the potato crop, just like it always has going back 150 years. Everyone hereabouts knows that Fall weather can turn wet and wicked and against a potato farmer in an awful hurry.

The Old Code

     There is always a big collective sigh of relief in Bridgewater when the last potatoes are dug and put under cover. And for most of the last century there's been nobody in town more relieved to see that last potato picked than Elden Bradbury. To run into Elden this time of year was to hear his query 'Didjagitdunn?' ('Did you get done [digging]'?). Upon hearing an affirmative reply, you would see Elden walk away with a little lighter gait as a certain measure of burden was lifted off from his shoulders. Elden was from the old school. How the other farmers in Town were faring was Elden's genuine concern. In his day it was everyone's concern. If a farmer was having bad luck and was having trouble getting done, the other farmers in town after they got their own crops dug, would bring over their crews and equipment to help the straggler finish up. No one was done until all were done. That was the old code.

     The Bradburys landed here into Bridgewater back in 1882 when Eldon's grandfather, that would be Lewis Oswald Bradbury, got established. Since that time there's been little daylight to be seen between a Bradbury and a potato. Elden planted the first potato crop that he could call his own in 1941. Then Uncle Sam came calling and got him off the farm and over to Europe for the four years following that next year. Once he had finished with his patriotic duty, Elden was back to Town and beginning in 1947 planting and digging potatoes along his brothers Earl and Wilbur in the farm operation that came to be iconic and known as ‘Bradbury Brothers.’

It's What Potato Farmers Do

     Elden never missed a potato crop after that. It is no exaggeration to say he worked every day, every year. This crop year of 2011, at age 93, was Eldon's 66th crop of potatoes. He died a few weeks ago in late September while shoveling up the spilled oats leftover from helping unload a truck. The Bradbury potato crop was a good ways towards being dug. Eldon's sons Dale and George and daughter Carrie, his family farming partners for forty years, plus his grandkids, have now been getting the rest of the crop out and into storage without him.

     With the passing of Elden, the last potato farmer of his generation, we're seeing the close of an era in our Town. His contemporary, Dan Bradstreet, had passed just a couple years ago at age 92, Dan himself working grading potatoes for half days up until the very end.

Hard Work and No Fuss

      Elden was a serious man and on the quiet side. He spoke no more than what needed to be said. He spoke softly and with authority. He would be the last person in town to want a fuss made over him. And it was incomprehensible to imagine this potato man of potato men for any reason being in the middle of an interruption of getting our Town's potato crop out of the ground.

     His family had planned his services and they fell on a Saturday that was very gray. Early in the day we had good success digging and had dug all the fore noon, expecting rain to stop us at any minute, but it held off. Shortly after noon the drizzle had picked up to a light rain. We hurried and got the harvested potatoes put away just as the rain was picking up in intensity to something steady and more than light.

     So it really came as no surprise at all that on that Saturday afternoon when Elden's graveside service was held, our misty gray day had turned into a steady no-digging rain, hard enough that the fields had become muddy and there was no more digging to be done that day.

     Working right until the end and not wanting to cause a fuss. That was Eldon's way.

Caleb, Jim & Megan


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Megan's Kitchen Recipes: Leek and Potato Soup.

Makes 2 Quarts
    
Trim off the root end and the tough upper greens from:

2 lbs Alto Leeks

Cut the trimmed leeks in half lengthwise and slice thin. Rinse in a bowl of cold water.

Lift out to drain.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the leeks along with 2 English Thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf and sea salt. cook until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add:
1 pound waxy potatoes (I used Prairie Blush), peeled, halved or quartered, and sliced. Cook the potatoes for 4 minutes and then add 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer. Cook until the leeks and potatoes are tender, but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.

When done, remove the bay leaf and thyme and puree the soup if desired. Stir in 1/3 c heavy cream. Do not boil once the cream is added. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.

This is a delicious soup for a cold winter's day.

Megan



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Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.


New Seed Packets Land Into Wood Prairie Family Farm. Winter we’re too busy grading and shipping seed. And in the Summer we’re too busy raising our seed crops. So, we had been trying for over three years to get traction on a big project, that of updating our Organic Vegetable Seed Packets. This year we finally pulled the trigger. Over the Summer Jim, along with Caleb’s brother-in-law, Rob, worked on what became a big, sprawling project. They finished the job on some of first rainy days during the early part of Potato Harvest. This week our order arrived from our Seed Packet printer in New York State. The crew is now busy filling seed packets of Vegetables Seeds, Herb Seeds, Flower Seeds and Cover Crop Seeds.




Long-Length Supplies for the Wood Prairie Irrigation Main Line Project. Caleb and Justin continue to take advantage of the warm, dry weather and are making good progress installing 6” underground irrigation mainline. The pipe lengths are 20-foot long and they are more unwieldy than heavy, weighing in at about 80 pounds per length. It is a perfect job for two people working together. The route of the mainline necessarily meant tearing up the unfinished driveway into Caleb and Lizzi’s new house by-the-pond. In the effort to rebuild the driveway, Caleb has already hauled more that forty 10-yard dump truckloads of gravel from our neighbor’s gravel pit. The 15.5-foot wide rolls of black fine-woven synthetic “Ground Cover” are laid beneath the gravel. The rain is able to filter down through gravel and the fabric, but the soil fines are not able to rise up and plug the pores in the gravel. Woven ground cover costs a pretty penny, but it really increases the life and performance of a road or driveway. So we believe it’s worth it. One thing farming teaches is to do the job right and don’t cut corners. That’s the best and least expensive option over the long haul.



 
Wood Prairie Dogs Grazing in the Grass! Everyone’s checking out a nice crop of ‘Aroostook’ Winter Rye during an unseasonably warm evening walk this week. Grazing on the Rye, clockwise from back left, Caleb and Lizzi's 18-month-old Rottweiler, Ralph; and 7-month-old brindle Cane Corso, Rudy; plus Amy's 3-year-old Australian Shepard, Oakley. This field was harvested of its crop of Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes in late September and immediately planted back to a crop of 'Aroostook' variety Winter Rye which will be harvested as an Organic Seed crop next July. 'Aroostook' is the hardiest Winter Rye. It handles low soil temps allowing it to grow late into the Fall and will start in growing again early the next Spring while patches of snow still grace farm fields.

We undersow the Rye with a combination of three types of Nitrogen-fixing Clover (Medium Red, Alsike and Yellow Blossom Sweet plus Timothy Grass seed. The Winter Rye serves as a fast-growing "nurse crop" which protects and encourages the establishment of the slower growing Clovers and Timothy. The field in the background grew Organic Seed Potatoes a year ago. That field also was also planted to Aroostook Winter Rye immediately after harvest. You can see the lush green crop of Clover now growing out above the silvery grain stubble left after we combined the Rye grain last Summer. Next year, we'll take an early cutting of Clover hay for our cows and then allow them to graze the regrowth beginning in August.

Each Potato field we have is enrolled into a long 4-year Crop Rotation: one year Potatoes followed by three years of soil-building sod. The sod plants take atmospheric Carbon (CO2), and combined with sunlight, convert it into valuable 'soil organic matter' (that’s where the "Organic" in “Organic Farming” comes from) – a critical process which places excess Carbon where it belongs: removed from the air and into the soil where it does untold good.

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Quick Links to Popular Products.


Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
49 Kinney Road
Bridgewater, Maine 04735
(207) 429 - 9765 / 207 (429) - 9682
Certified Organic From Farm to Mailbox

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